Gods and Generals: A Novel of the Civil War

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The story of Gods and Generals begins with Michael Shaara, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning classic The Killer Angels. A native of New Jersey, Michael Shaara grew to be an adventurous young man: over the years, he found work as a sailor, a paratrooper, a ...

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Gods and Generals: A Novel of the Civil War

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Bring back the pleasure of reading, read Jeff Shaara in Large Print.

All Random House Large Print Editions are published in a 16-point typeface.

The story of Gods and Generals begins with Michael Shaara, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning classic The Killer Angels. A native of New Jersey, Michael Shaara grew to be an adventurous young man: over the years, he found work as a sailor, a paratrooper, a policeman, and an English professor at Florida State University. In 1952, his son Jeff was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Michael's interest in Gettysburg was prompted by some letters written by his great-grandfather, who had been wounded at the great battle while serving with the 4th Georgia Infantry. In 1966, he took his family on a vacation to the battlefield and found himself moved.

In 1970, Michael Shaara returned to Gettysburg with his son Jeff. The pair crisscrossed the historic site, gathering detailed information for the father's novel-in-progress. In 1974, the novel was published with the title The Killer Angels. This gripping fictional account of the three bloody days at Gettysburg won Michael Shaara a Pulitzer Prize and a vast, appreciative audience. To date it has sold two million copies.

When Michael Shaara died in 1988, his son Jeff began to manage his literary estate. It was a legacy he knew well, having helped his father create it. When director Ron Maxwell filmed the movie Gettysburg, based on The Killer Angels, he asked Jeff to serve as a consultant. Maxwell encouraged Shaara to continue the story his father began; inspired, Jeff planned an ambitious trilogy, with The Killer Angels as the centerpiece, following the war from its origins to its end.

With Gods and Generals, Jeff Shaara gives fans of The Killer Angels everything they could have asked—an epic, brilliantly written saga that brings the nation's greatest conflict to life.

The epic Civil War saga begun in Michael Shaara's Pulitzer Prize-winning bestseller The Killer Angels continues in a sweeping novel of the years preceding Gettysburg. Jeff Shaara carries forth his father's vision in a monumental story of the Civil War's beginning--and the lives, passions, and careers of its great military leaders. Billboards on roads leading to Gettysburg. WWW promo.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
July 1997

In 1966, Michael Shaara took his family on an outing to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to visit the historic battlefields of the Civil War. It was there that he first felt the inspiration to compose what has become one of the greatest pieces of historical fiction ever written about that great and tragic battle: The Killer Angels, published in 1975. Michael Shaara won a Pulitzer Prize for his work, and his book was the basis for the epic 1993 Ted Turner film, "Gettysburg," which he unfortunately did not live to see. But there was something missing, something left unwritten. Now Jeff Shaara, Michael's son, has penned his first novel, a prequel to The Killer Angels, adding more depth to the characters his father chronicled. Jeff had a strong vision of how to make the story in his own novel blend with his father's masterpiece and an innate sense of how to make one story flow into the other. The result is Gods and Generals, proof that Jeff Shaara has inherited his father's ability to compose epic historical fiction.

"My father taught creative writing at Florida State University," explains Jeff, "and he would be the first to tell you that you cannot teach creative writing. Inspiration comes from a very strange place, something I never understood or experienced before trying to write Gods and Generals. I still can't explain where it comes from, how the words seem to just flow. I do recall one lesson of his, however: 'Show it, don't tell it.'" Indeed, the characters speak for themselves in Shaara's new novel, as the heroes ofthebattlefield from The Killer Angels — Winfield Scott Hancock, Robert E. Lee, and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain — travel on the long road from Harper's Ferry to Gettysburg, where they fight to the bloody end. Gods and Generals is the story of the opening years of the war, of armies repeatedly locked in fierce struggles and stalemates, of enemies who had only a few years earlier been compatriots. The great commanders of the armies were never friends, but united forever nonetheless, as their individual stories, in the author's own words, "shape the most tragic event in our nation's history."

Hancock, Lee, Chamberlain — and a new character, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson — all meet for the first time at the battle of Fredericksburg, where Lee's Confederate Army gains a much-needed victory. But it is in the next great battle, at Chancellorsville, that Jackson is mortally wounded and the Union gains a vital edge. The only remaining hope for the rebel army, severely outmanned, is to make a final rush on Washington. And so the march begins, across the Potomac toward the tiny town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Jeff Shaara gives the reader the background history to The Killer Angels, from the opening skirmishes at Manassas to the eve of the Battle of Gettysburg. He brings to life the scenes and characters, the colors and terrors, of the terrible yet fascinating event that was the Civil War in America. To tour the monuments erected to battle in that historic Pennsylvania town, or any town visited by the Civil War, is to feel the spirits of history, courage, and tragedy that dwell there. Michael Shaara felt it, and his passion has been successfully passed along to his son. Jeff Shaara's Gods and Generals belongs on the bookshelves of historical-fiction readers everywhere.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Shaara, whose father, Michael Shaara, won the Pulitzer in 1975 for his Civil War saga The Killer Angels, penned this prequel, which spent 14 weeks on PW's bestseller list. (May)
Library Journal
Shaara, whose father, Michael, wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning Civil War novel The Killer Angels, proves he's a chip off the old block with this fictionalized account of life on the eve of the battle of Gettysburg.
School Library Journal
YAShaara has chosen four major figures of the Civil WarGenerals Lee, Jackson, Hancock, and Chamberlainand woven an excellent novel told from their individual viewpoints. The author excels at showing the personalities and lives of these key men. The central person in each alternating chapter moves the story toward the bloody battles of the Wilderness and Chancellorsville, and finally to the eve of the Gettysburg campaign. The compassion and religious convictions of Lee and Jackson are contrasted with the equally strong beliefs of Hancock and Chamberlain against secession and the destruction of the Union. All are frustrated by the political and administrative blunders that affect both armies. The author skillfully involves readers with each of the participants. Those unfamiliar with the period will appreciate the introduction and afterword that place the events within the context of the men's lives. Factual detail and deft character development create fascinating historical fiction.Barry Williams, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA
Dallas Morning News
"Compelling... A work of vivid drama and kill. The strength of this work is its personalization of the struggle. The action both draws in the reader and illustrates the gravity of each situation... There is also a certain poetry to Mr. Shaara's introspections and narrative."
Philadelphia Inquirer
"Gods and Generals is an honorable, readable sprawl of a book... Shaara's best service in Gods and Generals is to take men who now stand as unnoticed monuments outside courthouses and humanize them."
Chicago Sun-Times
"Powerful...A worthy companion to The Killer Angels...Shaara brilliantly charts the war, the exploits of the combatants and their motivations. He also concisely shows how the early parts of the campaign unfolded. His accounts of the battles of Williamsburg, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville are exciting... Though the story of the Civil War has been told many times, this is the rare version that conveys what is must have felt like."
Detroit Free Press
"Jeff Shaara has succeeded brilliantly. Gods and Generals is every once as fine a work as his father's was."
San Francisco Chronicle
"Shaara's beautifully sensitive novel delves deeply in the empathetic realm of psycho-histoyr, where enemies od not exist -- just mortal men forced to make crucial decisions and survive on the same battlefield...[He] succeeds with his historical novel through fully realized characters who were forced to decide their loyalties amid the horrors fo their dividing nation."
& Constitution Atlanta Journal
"Brilliant does not even begin to describe the Shaara gift. Thank Gods and Generals that it was passed from father to son."
Kirkus Reviews
First-time author Sharra comes of a distinguished lineage: His father, Michael (who died in 1988), wrote the Pulitzer Prizewinning novel The Killer Angels (1974) about the Civil War battle of Gettysburg.

It's some testament to the younger Sharra's skills that his own debut, meant to be a prequel to that earlier book, can often hold its own with that work. Like Killer Angels, this new novel focuses mostly on actual figures swept up in that immense conflict: Robert E. Lee and Thomas ("Stonewall") Jackson on the Confederate side, Joshua Chamberlain and Winfield Scott Hancock on the Union, most prominently. Sharra follows these figures, and a score more, from the onset of the war up to the days just before the 1863 battle at Gettysburg. (A sequel will follow the surviving characters through to the war's conclusion.) And like Killer Angels, this novel displays an impressive grasp of the particulars of the conflict. The author projects some believable, idiosyncratic life into such familiar figures as Lee and Jackson. Lee's early disbelief in the possibility of war, and his growing, almost mystical conviction in the war's necessity and outcome, are all nicely conveyed, as is Joshua Chamberlain's harsh coming-of-age in battle. Sharra is particularly good at rendering the reluctance of many of the combatants. But while this prequel offers a robust portrait of the early years of the war, it lacks something of the impact of Killer Angels. That novel's great resonance had something to do with the intense focus on just three days of battle: Gettysburg became a particularly apt metaphor for the entire conflict. This new book, by having to plod dutifully across several years of battles, seems at times more like an impressionistic work of history than a work of fiction.

Still, Sharra's wonderful command of detail and his generally shrewd depiction of character make for an impressive debut.

From the Publisher
“Powerful . . . Though the story of the Civil War has been told many times, this is the rare version that conveys what it must have felt like.”—Chicago Sun-Times

“Compelling . . . a work of vivid drama and skill.”—The Dallas Morning News

“[Jeff] Shaara’s beautifully sensitive novel delves deeply in the empathetic realm of psycho-history, where enemies do not exist—just mortal men forced to make crucial decisions and survive on the same battlefield.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“Historical detail and depth of character carry the book, which examines the viewpoints and vulnerabilities of one of the most fascinating collections of military minds ever assembled on a single battlefront.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Shaara has created human beings of the myths and cold facts.”—St. Petersburg Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553756401
  • Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/14/2003
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Abridged, 4 CDs, 4 hrs.
  • Product dimensions: 5.64 (w) x 4.89 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeff Shaara

Jeff Shaara is the New York Times bestselling author of Rise to Rebellion and Gone for Soldiers, as well as Gods and Generals and The Last Full Measure-- two novels that complete the Civil War trilogy that began with his father's Pulitzer Prize-winning classic The Killer Angels. Jeff was born in 1952 into a family of Italian immigrants in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He grew up in Tallahassee, Florida, and graduated from Florida State University. He and his wife, Lynne, live on Anna Maria Island, Florida. Visit the author online at www.JeffShaara.com

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    1. Hometown:
      Kalispell, Montana
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 21, 1952
    2. Place of Birth:
      New Brunswick, New Jersey
    1. Education:
      B.S. in Criminology, Florida State University, 1974
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Gods and Generals: Antietam/Sharpsburg

After Lee's victory at Bull Run, he took his men on a march into Maryland, drawing the Union army out of Virginia. But Union commander George McClellan captured Lee's plans; for once in his life he moved quickly to pin the Confederates down in the fields around the town of Sharpsburg, by Antietam Creek.

On September 17, 1862, the two armies clashed in the bloodiest day of the entire war. McClellan launched a series of uncoordinated attacks on Lee's outnumbered army. Joshua Chamberlain served in the Union army's reserve, waiting all day to be ordered into the bloody fight.

They reached a small village, Porterstown, and marched through wide streets, the townspeople standing in doorways, leaning out windows, some waving, others just staring. Farther ahead, on the creek itself, was the Middle Bridge, held by the Confederate division of Daniel Harvey Hill. The rebel forces were dug in, back, away from the creek, and to their front the Federal army was spreading out, into lines of attack, were crossing the creek and preparing for the assault. The battle had begun on the far right, just after dawn, and now, as the sun began to rise up behind them, Chamberlain could hear the steady rumble, and as they moved closer, the sharp sounds of single cannon. He sat high on his horse, moving along with the same slow rhythm of the march, but now the men did not fall out, did not feel the weight of the hot September morning, but stared to the front, marching steadily, closer to the sound of the guns.

He heard the steady clatter of muskets now, still off to the right of the road, to the northwest. The battle isnot in front of us, he thought. Strange that we should move this way...not up there.

In front of them, Chamberlain saw a rise, a long, wide hill, and as they began to move up, he saw guns, rows of black cannon set into shallow, round depressions before the crest of the hill. Just then they began to fire, quick bursts of gray smoke, and a sudden shocking boom that startled him and his horse. He bounced around on the road, had to grab the horse hard to calm him. From over the hill he saw Ames, riding hard, past lines of troops that were moving away now, to the right, toward the sounds of the battle.

Ames reined up his horse, and Chamberlain saw he was sweating. "Colonel, we're here, right here. Keep the men in column lines. Let's move them out into this field. Wait for further orders. We are part of the reserve."

Chamberlain turned, and Ames rode past him, into the columns of men, and gave the command to the bugler. With the signal, the men moved quickly off the road. Then Ames rode up again, toward the front of the column, slowed his horse as he reached Chamberlain, said, "Colonel, keep them tight, keep them ready. I am to survey the field to our front."

Chamberlain watched him ride away, up the long hill, turning his horse to the side behind the rows of black cannon. The guns began to fire again, a loud and thunderous volley, and the hill became a great, thick fog bank.

He stayed on his horse, saw now across the road, on the left, vast numbers of troops, lines disappearing into a distant grove of trees, and the men not moving, keeping their formations. He rode out the other way, to the right, into the grass, saw more troops farther out that way, a great field of blue, waiting. He looked to his own men, saw the companies staying in their formations, coming off the road, and he rode up to the head of one column, saw Captain Spears of Company G, a small, sharp man who had also been a teacher. He had a narrow, thick beard, sat on a horse, watched Chamberlain approach, puffed on a large round pipe.

"Well, Colonel, do you think we will get our chance?"

Chamberlain looked back to the crest of the hill, could still not see through the smoke, and another volley thundered out, shaking the ground, startling his horse again.

"Whoa, easy...We'll see, Captain. Right now we must be ready...be ready to move forward on command!" He felt a little foolish, a vague order, felt again as if he were left out, didn't know what was happening. The battle sounds had continued to the northwest, and he wondered, Are they moving away, around us? He glanced at Spears, said, "I'll be right back...just going up the crest a ways, take a look maybe."

"We're right here, Colonel."

He turned the horse, then decided to dismount instead. This wasn't a parade. He jumped down, felt his belt, his pistol, began to walk toward the thick cloud of smoke.

The guns continued to fire, every minute or so, and he wondered, How far away is the enemy? There had been no explosions, no incoming shells, none of the sounds he'd been told about, coached about, by Ames, just the deadening thunder of their own big guns....

Now, from the sounds of the battle, he saw his first troops, thick lines of blue, uneven and ragged formations, moving toward a cornfield, and then smoke, solid lines of gray, and in a few seconds the sound reached him, the chattering musket fire, and the blue lines were in pieces, men moving back, some still advancing, some not moving at all. He saw more lines now, solid blocks of blue spreading wide, advancing, and more smoke, and more sounds, and then, farther away, a glimpse through the smoke, other lines of men, some moving, some firing, quick flashes of white and yellow, and the big guns beside him firing again....

He turned to watch the men working the cannon, and was startled to see more men, his men, watching the battle, lying on the ground, creating a neat blue patch on the hill. He had not thought anyone else would be up here, should not have been up here; he should not be up here, but he knew they could not just wait, could not sit behind some big hill and hear it all and not see.

Chamberlain stood up, began to wave his arms, fast and high, motioning to his men, and another blast came from the guns. He braced himself, did not fall, kept waving, back, move back, wondering if they saw him or were ignoring him. He moved along the hillside, tried to yell, but the sound of the guns took his voice away, and suddenly he heard a high, distant scream, louder now, whistling toward him, dropping down on him from behind. He turned, saw nothing, but the sound pierced his ears, and the ground suddenly flew high around him, dirt spraying him, knocking him down, and he lay still, shook his head...checked, all right, but...a bad day for the ears. Then another scream, overhead, and behind the hill, down where the rest of his men sat waiting, there was another explosion, and he tried to see, but it was beyond the crest.

Suddenly, someone had him under the arms, lifting him, and he said, "No, I'm all right," and he saw the face of an officer, a man with black crust under his eyes, around his mouth and nose, glaring at him with eyes of cold steel.

"You are bloody well not all right, you damned fool! Get these men back off this hill! You're drawing fire to my guns!"

From the Hardcover edition.

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Table of Contents

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Interviews & Essays

On Monday, July 14, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Jeff Shaara, author of GODS AND GENERALS.

Moderator: Civil War buffs and fans of historical fiction, don't miss this chat! Tonight in the barnesandnoble.com live events Auditorium, we are pleased to welcome Jeff Shaara, author of the newly released GODS AND GENERALS. Jeff's novel is the prequel to THE KILLER ANGELS, the wildly popular Civil War novel written by his father, Michael Shaara, in 1974. Good evening, Jeff Shaara! Thanks for being here!

Jeff Shaara: Good evening -- thank you! Pleasure to be here.

Paul from Tampa: How would you compare/contrast your writing style with that of your father's?

Jeff Shaara: I did not set out to mimic my father's style, but I have been told there are similarities. I just tried to tell the story in my own way, and it came out very close to my father's way. I don't have a better answer than that.

JT2U2 from Maryland: Jeff, I am a Civil War buff but usually only read nonfiction books. What makes your book fictional? How much is fact, and how much of it is fiction?

Jeff Shaara: The history is as factual as I could make it. That was critically important. By definition, what makes it fiction is the dialogue and the thoughts of the characters. But I knew historians would jump on this if the history wasn't correct, so I really tried to make the history as accurate as I could. That's what is interesting about these characters -- you don't have to embellish what they did. It's a wonderful story just telling the truth.

Alex from Hackensack, NJ: Hello, Jeff. Tell me, do you welcome comparisons to your father's work, or are you ready to be considered as your own writer?

Jeff Shaara: Comparisons to THE KILLER ANGELS are inevitable. I knew that going into this, and had to accept it from the start. What I did not expect were the positive comparisons, which are wonderful. If people feel that GODS AND GENERALS can simply sit on the same shelf as my father's book, that's wonderful. I don't mind the comparisons a bit. Maybe after I've done this for a while, I hope that people will hear my voice, instead of just me and my father. But I'm too new at this to expect that.

Francine X. from Tennessee: What was the most fun about researching this book?JS

Jeff Shaara: Discovering the character of Jackson. We learn about characters like this in history textbooks, usually in one-dimensional ways. It was an adventure for me to feel like I knew this man. The problem with that is that learning to love a character like this meant that it was a very, very difficult thing to have to write his death.

Howard Raleigh from Spokane, Washington: Jeff, how do you compose dialogue for historical figures like Joshua Chamberlain, who lived and spoke themselves once but are not here now to defend themselves? Does anyone get up in arms about your liberties in essentially "putting words into the mouths" of famous figures?

Jeff Shaara: I have had people question my right to put words in the mouths of these characters. There is no other way to tell a story like mine or my father's without doing that. My research gave me a very personal insight into who these people were, how they thought, and how they spoke, and I felt comfortable with the dialogue that I gave them. If I am not comfortable with what they are saying, then the reader will not be comfortable either, and the whole story falls apart. If I don't believe it, neither will you.

Eugene Rossman from Highridge, NJ: Jeff, do you feel that there is any inherent danger in historical fiction as a genre? Impressionable people, or young students, who read your book could easily mistake your fictions for fact, and thus the truth is obscured. Do you agree?

Jeff Shaara: I don't feel that I obscured the truth at all. If someone else feels that way, or senses something fake in my story, then I have failed as a writer. If there is a danger in historical fiction, it is when the facts are twisted, or history is falsified.

Jim Frost from State College, PA: Are you planning on writing a novel that picks up where THE KILLERS ANGELS leaves off?

Jeff Shaara: Yes! I am almost finished with the manuscript now, and the publisher is already calling for publication next May. It begins exactly where THE KILLER ANGELS ends, moves through the end of the war, and brings in the wonderful character of Grant.

Gerald G. from Jackson, MS: Mr. Shaara, good evening. Did you feel a lot of undo pressure, or added pressure at the very least, in writing this novel? It was, of course, your first published work, correct? And what a legacy to live up to!

Jeff Shaara: Yes. But there was no pressure, because all I set out to do was continue my father's story, not compete with it. I never had any idea that GODS AND GENERALS would be receiving this kind of attention, something my father never saw in his lifetime.

Rory from Florida: Hey, Jeff, I have three questions for you
  • 1) I am planning to write a book of commentaries (I am going into the eighth grade at the end of August and plan to start in December). When I start, should I think of what commentaries I want to write? Do some research? What should I do?
  • 2) How do you overcome writer's block?
  • 3)How much time do you spend writing?

Thanks a bunch!

Jeff Shaara: Certainly the research has to be done before anything is put onto paper. I am extremely lucky in that I have never experienced writer's block. I spend anywhere between two hours and 12 hours a day writing, depending just on how much comes out. I write until it stops, as if somebody turns off the switch.

Ned S. from Leroy St.: Jeff, do you finally feel that your father can rest in peace? Or did that happen long ago, with the success of THE KILLER ANGELS?

Jeff Shaara: It did not happen long ago, because I don't feel that he was ever really understood. My memories of the end of his life were that he considered himself a failure. That's a real tragedy, considering the monument he left behind. I know full well that GODS AND GENERALS and the sequel would be his books if he was alive. There is closure in that.

Theodore from Chicago: Jeff, what kinds of parameters were set around you by other works of historical fiction? What did you read in preparation for writing GODS AND GENERALS? Any Gore Vidal, perhaps?

Jeff Shaara: No, I read no other historical fiction on purpose. I didn't want anyone else's style to interfere in what I was trying to do. Of course, the only exception to that is THE KILLER ANGELS. I still have a hard time reading other writers' historical fiction.

Emily from Richmond, VA: Have you been back to Gettysburg recently?

Jeff Shaara: Yes, I was just there last week. I will probably be there every July for the rest of my life. [laughs]

Frank from Gettysburg: So, when's the movie due out? Turner Studios optioning the deal?

Jeff Shaara: Turner is not involved at this point. Ron Maxwell, director of "Gettysburg," and I, are developing it to begin production, we hope, late next year. I have to be a little vague, at this point, but we hope to be able to make a serious announcement at the 135th of Antietam in September.

Ken from Stow, MA: Jeff! Thanks for being on tonight. Loved GODS AND GENERALS. As owner of the Joshua Chamberlain Home Page, I would like to know if JLC will be in your next book, which I understand is to take place after KILLER ANGELS.

Jeff Shaara: Absolutely! The story doesn't exist without him. The principle characters are JLC, Lee, and Grant. The story will likely end with a brief chapter on JLC at the end of his life in 1914.

Alex Randhava from Chicago, IL: Jeff, in your research, did you ever ponder what would have happened had the South won the Civil War? What if Jackson hadn't been mortally wounded? As a historical novelist, you have the liberty and the license to write it like this -- ever considered it? Just wondering. Thanks.

Jeff Shaara: That's not my style to rewrite history, although it can be very entertaining. Clearly Jackson's presence at Gettysburg would have certainly affected the outcome of the battle. I love getting into this stuff with historians, because everybody has a different theory on how things might have ended.

Eric K. from D.C.: Having visited Gettysburg numerous times, and being a history buff myself, I've always felt that the legend of great warriors is only colored more vividly through history's interpretation of them. Take Chamberlain, for instance. A remarkable man and leader, whose legend reaches more people and becomes even more, well, "godlike," to steal a phrase from you, over time and as more and more is written about him. Do you feel that your work lends credit to these great generals, or leads people in the wrong direction, blurring the line between fact and fiction?

Jeff Shaara: If it does lead people in the wrong direction, it's because I've done a bad job in telling the story. I have no interest in creating myths. I know my father understood this well, particularly about JLC. If people discover a wonderful character like this because someone like my father, or maybe me, tries to tell his story, then I'm pretty happy with that.

Mark from NYC: How do you feel about the online forum as a medium for discussion and interview? Ever done this before?

Jeff Shaara: I have done it three times before, in both Civil War rooms and other author rooms. I'm very happy with the quality of the questions. It makes me think pretty hard on what it is that I do.

Joe from Richmond, VA: Jeff, since you've obviously studied the pre-Gettysburg period, I'd be interested in your opinion of John F. Reynolds.

Jeff Shaara: Reynolds probably could have, and maybe should have, commanded the Army of the Potomac. Everyone who knew him wrote that he was unequalled as a commander of troops in the field, except possibly by Hancock. It certainly is likely that the war would have ended sooner than it did, and Grant might never have come to command.

David Levin from med. school, but a history buff!: What set Gettysburg apart from the earlier battles that you cover in your book, battles like Manassas, Fredericksburg, Antietam, etc.? What did you enjoy most about writing the road to Gettysburg?

Jeff Shaara: Gettysburg is always singled out as the turning point of the war. It's as close as Lee came to actually winning, and certainly if the battle had gone the other way, the war may have ended right there. One of the objections of doing a film about GODS AND GENERALS was raised by one Hollywood studio, who said "Didn't all the good stuff happen at Gettysburg?" Obviously I enjoyed writing about a great deal more "good stuff" that led up to Gettysburg. And by the way, I feel like the real turning point of the war was the death of Jackson.

Selene Green from Casselberry, FL: Do you have any other Civil War books in the planning stages? (Say hi to Lynn....)

Jeff Shaara: Hi! I'll say hi to Lynn, and yes, the sequel to THE KILLER ANGELS will be out next May. After that, I'm already beginning to work on a Mexican War story...

John Mack from Abingdon, MD: When you finished your research, which Civil War general did you respect the least? Why?

Jeff Shaara: Probably Joe Hooker. Even someone like Burnside, who was essentially incompetent -- at least he had good motives. Hooker seemed to have so much of his own self-interest at heart that he was outright dangerous, not only to his cause but to his own men.

Steve from White Bear Lake, MN: Will there be a movie from your book? Gettysburg was such a good film.

Jeff Shaara: What we certainly want to do is keep the same spirit that the reenactors brought to the spirit of "Gettysburg." There were many lessons learned in the production of "Gettysburg," and I promise, the beards will be better!

Robin from Myerstown, PA: Jeff, with your next book, will you continue in the direction of your father with your treatment of General Longstreet? I think your father finally showed him as he really was, for which we are very grateful.

Jeff Shaara: Certainly to some extent. The problem, of course, is that Longstreet is wounded in May of 1864, and doesn't return until near the end. For that reason, he can't be a main character in the story, but Lee certainly feels his loss, and in fact I've already written most of that part in the new book. You will see Longstreet getting wounded -- from his own point of view.

Gina from Pennsylvania: A lot of people are comparing you to your father, quite positively in fact. How does that feel?

Jeff Shaara: It is amazing. At first, I simply didn't believe it at all. I thought maybe that people were just being too generous. As I've read more and more of those kinds of comments, what I'm now feeling is that my father truly left me a gift. And that by continuing his story, and actually seeing myself as a writer, not only can I honor him, but my whole life is moving in a different direction.

Reggie from Palms Springs, CA: When did you know it was time to stop? Did you hear your father talking to you through your words?

Jeff Shaara: It was very important that the reader be able to finish GODS AND GENERALS and pick up THE KILLER ANGELS and not miss a beat. So it was always clear where the ending would be. Just like it is very clear in the sequel where the beginning will be.

Roger from South Hadley, MA: Any recommendations of good books to read for the summer?

Jeff Shaara: I have been hearing a lot of good things about this new book called COLD MOUNTAIN. I haven't read it, and probably won't until I finish the sequel. I would also recommend a book called SHARPSHOOTER by David Madden.

Bob from Philadelphia: Why did Lincoln continue to appoint incompetent generals to command the Army of the Potomac, when many generals already in the field, such as Hancock, knew full well who would be the best commanders?

Jeff Shaara: The best commanders were not always willing to take the job. Reynolds is the best example of that. Also, politics played a role. Lincoln had to deal with pressure from Halleck and Stanton, who had their own choices and their own motives. I believe that Grant finally was put in command because Lincoln had run out of patience.

Jane from NYC: How do you feel about the publishing world, now that you are immersed in it?

Jeff Shaara: I have no complaints. This is a very different experience for me than it was for my father. It is quite likely that he would be a much more famous man if his relationship with New York had been better.

Jim from Pennsylvania: In your opinion, how good of a strategist was General Lee? I remember, in your father's novel, Longstreet saying that Lee used outdated tactics. Would you agree with this? Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems from GODS AND GENERALS that you consider his ability to understand and lead men to be his stronger skill. Thanks for being online tonight!

Jeff Shaara: That might be really the only point of disagreement between me and my father. However, consider that after Gettysburg, Lee did begin to use Longstreet's defensive tactics much more. Consider that through the wilderness, until the end of the war, Lee basically survived Grant's onslaught by using superior defensive strategy. If the Confederate soldiers didn't agree with Longstreet's idea of trench warfare, if it wasn't considered "manly" to dig a trench and hide from your enemy, by 1864 every man was looking for a shovel.

Ken Rickert from Stow, MA: Thanks for the last answer. Two more JLC questions. (Sorry, blame your dad for my interest in him!) First, have you had the chance to visit the JLC Museum in Brunswick, Maine? And second, in the film you mentioned for GODS AND GENERALS, any chances of grabbing Jeff Daniels for another turn as JLC? Thanks again.

Jeff Shaara: I hope to get to Maine this fall. I really want to see what they've done with his house. Jeff Daniels is absolutely my first choice for JLC.

Richard Green from Casselberry, FL: Did you get more inspiration from letters and histories or from gut feelings for Hancock?

Jeff Shaara: My best source of information on Hancock were two books his wife's and General Walker's (on Hancock's staff). Also, the great surprise to me was realizing that Hancock was very much like my father. That made his character a great deal of fun to write. Thanks, Richard!

Moderator: Thanks for joining us tonight, Jeff Shaara! And thanks to all who participated. We enjoyed hosting you all. Jeff, any final words before we go?

Jeff Shaara: Thanks to everyone for the extraordinary attention. This past year has been the ride of a lifetime. Thank you all!

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 110 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 111 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 26, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    very powerful book

    the book was so well written its hard to put down. the way the author brings you in to the battles is wonderful. a must read you will enjoy.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A read that draws you in page by page

    This book is great for readers looking for a taste of American Civil War history. It present the battles and characters in a way that brings them to life and makes you feel like their your best friend. It makes you want to keep reading and learning about the Civil War, which is a very important event in our nations history.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 23, 2011

    Highly recommended

    If you are interested in the Civil War, this is a Great overview of the leadership from both sides. This is fictionalized history in the vein of James Michener and John Jakes. I had a hard time putting it down.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2007

    Greatest Book Since The Bible

    Gods and Generals was written with great accuracy. It keeps us spell bound actually taking us back to April 1861 through May of 1863. It wraps our minds in the spirit of the day. We are there next to General Lee, Jackson, Hood, Chamberlain, Hancock and Burnside as their orders are given and taken. A great Southern point of view of the war that seperated two nations in bitter conflict. Fantastic second part of the trilogy. Jeff Shaara wrote a masterpiece. He is a great writer. He is equal to his Dad, Michael Shaara.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 10, 2011

    One of the best novel written on the Civil War

    Jeff Shaara simply wrote a masterpiece when he wrote "Gods and Generals". While the writing isn't as good as his father?s "The Killer Angels", J. Shaara gave us all of the background information you could want on the major players. Lee, Jackson, Chamberlain, and Hancock all become alive for the reader. Characters like Winfield Scott, Albert Sidney Johnson, and J.E.B. Stuart all have interesting parts in the story, and are characterized very well. Everything from Lee's participation in crushing John Brown's Raid, to Chancellorsville is covered in this novel, and it is a must have for any student of the Civil War or anybody interested in a good read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 27, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Recommended by this Civil War buff

    Gods and Generals is a book that follows four leaders of the Civil War, looking at their lives and careers in the years leading to and the first 2 years (approximately) of the war. While the characters in the story are pulled from history (General Robert E. Lee, General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, General Winfield Scott Hancock, and Lieutenant Colonel Joshua Chamberlain), it is fiction in that the author delves more into the characters than history records. If you're looking for an accurate history book with very detailed information about battles, then this isn't the book for you. While Shaara does give ample information about troop movements and battles, he spends more time exploring the characters, their motivations for fighting, their family lives, and their relationships with the other soldiers.

    I'm a history buff and particularly enjoy learning about the Civil War. So, I really enjoyed this book. As I read I had a strong urge to watch the movie Gettysburg, which was based on his father, Michael Shaara's book The Killer Angels, to get the rest of the story. Oh and Gods and Generals was also made into a film. And as I researched a little more, I learned that there is one more book in this Civil War trilogy, The Last Full Measure, which covers what happens after Gettysburg.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Shaara is the Gold Standard for Historical Fiction

    For some reason, the vast percentage of Civil War literature is in the form of overly-abundant and increasingly repetitious history books. Good novels of the Civil War (and the Revolutionary War) are few, far between and most likely written by someone named Shaara. While Shaara is not quite as lively as Bernard Cornwell's enjoyable, yet formulamatic rehash of his Sharpe novels, The Starbuck Chronicles, "G&G" certainly has a great deal more depth. The book is also much less laborous and burdenome than the incredibly over-baked movie version.
    If you are at all interested in the subject matter Shaara is the best.
    I also reccomend The Flying Dutchmen by Andrew B. Suhrer. The novel is a real page-turner and can't be beat for entertaining reading whether you are interested in the Civil War or not.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 1, 2014

    Excellent work

    Like other Shaara books this puts faces and personalities onto historical characters. The events are very true to history as best as I can tell.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2013

    This book ranks at the same level as The Killer Angels, by the a

    This book ranks at the same level as The Killer Angels, by the author's father. I can't think of any higher praise that I could give.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2013

    Great read

    The book gives a first person view of 4 Civil War officers-Lee, Jackson,Hancock and Chamberlain. As a Civil War Buff, I enjoyed it very much.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    A brilliant historical novel about the little studied period jus

    A brilliant historical novel about the little studied period just before the Civil War broke out and brothers in arms were forced to choose sides against one another. Well written, a fitting prequel to Killer Angels, Jeff Shaara did an amazing job crafting these books in the lineage of his father's original vision. The toughest thing about this book is the realization that we may, in fact, be reliving some of the same moral issues that divided that generation of far greater men than our own.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2012

    Very familiar

    Jeff and his late father do a great job making one very familiar with these individuals whom prior to reading the father and son novels are no more than distant footnotes of history. The stories flow also. I am enjoying Gods and Generals, just a bit less than The Killer Angels. Looking forward to the final of the trilogy, which I am sure will make my flight from JFK to San Francisco fly by (no pun intended).

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 2, 2012

    A keeper - I will reread this book

    I liked this book (this Author) better than his Dad's. This book ends just where Killer Angels begins - nice set, now we need son to teach me what happened in the 3rd and 4th year of the war...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 18, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A terrific novel for any fan of history

    This is best Civil War novel I have ever read. Move over Red Badge of Courage. Readers will be amazed at how well Shaara tells this story of the Civil War from the points of view of General Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. I also thought that the ending was very touching.

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  • Posted May 30, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Great Education -

    In this prequel to The Killer Angels, Jeff Shaara pays homage to his father's book by continuing to keep the reader riveted by humanizing historical minutia. You will not be disappointed as you get to know Stonewall Jackson and understand his importance to General Lee and the Confederate Army. The heroics of Chamberlain's charge down Little Round Top become even more significant as you learn more of the key men involved in the Eastern Theater of the Civil War. This is another must read!

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  • Posted May 21, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Civil War Comes Alive

    Jeff Shaara Writes just like his father Micheal Shaara. The characters really come to life in this book. It's not a biography or a historical document of the Civil War battles. It's a connection to each person in their own thoughts and feelings. All of the major players of the battles just before Gettysburg are mentioned, their stories told through them. It's a good book for anyone who appreciates history, and historical novels. This is not your everyday book, it's truly one of a kind.

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  • Posted May 13, 2010

    Hooked On Shaara

    I've only recently discovered Jeff Shaara, and while this is his first book, it's the fourth of his that I've read and I've yet to be disappointed to any degree. His ability to bring history alive is unmatched. A prequel to his father's masterpiece, The Killer Angels, Shaara takes us back to the build-up for war and relays the story to us through the eyes of 4 key men...Robert E. Lee, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, Winfield Scott Hancock and Lawrence Chamberlain. Each fascinating in his own way and each fighting for very different reasons. The war may have been brough on by slavery, but at an individual level, each man fought for his own reason and many of them were different. Take a brief trip back in time into the minds of these men as they waged the bloodiest war in American history. You will not regret it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2010

    Gods and Generals

    Jeff Shaara's Gods and Generals was a good book overall. Shaara's detail was very impressive. His style of portraying the war through the eyes of the Generals fighting in it was a unique way to look at the war. Also, the unbiased portrayal of both sides was very enjoyable. Overall, Gods and Generals was a very well written and entertaining account of the first part of the U.S. Civil War.

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  • Posted March 1, 2010

    A must have for History, Civil War buffs.

    Excellent writing, story lines, read it twice

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  • Posted November 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    If you like and enjoy history and novels this is one book for you.

    Michael Shaara wrote one of the most enjoyable books I have ever read dealing with the Civil War battle of Gettysburg titled "The Killer Angels". His son Jeff has now picked up the mantle of continuing this fine story of our nations bloodiest war on our soil by writing :God's and Generals". This book leads the reader up to and into the Battle of Gettysburg. It tells of the smaller fights and scrimishes that set the stage for Gettysburg. Jeff's writing style is very easy to read and almost makes the reader believe he must have been in the tent or room with the characters when they were speaking. Very entertaining and the most enjoyable part was, while the book is basically a novel, it is based on facts and real places, people, and events which gives you a history lesson without being dry and boring.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 111 Customer Reviews

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